Another paradox

Scripture informs us that the greatest and most powerful being in the universe loves us and is on our side. Yet it adds that this great, powerful and loving being is not always greatly concerned about our ease and comfort.

The great lover of our souls sometimes is disturbingly slow in giving us what we want. Worse, he sometimes gives us the exact opposite of what we want. The most deserving soul that ever lived had his life cut short by a wicked and barbaric execution. Yet then he came out of the grave.

In our lives God can demonstrate great power and intricate planning to suddenly lift us safely out of an impending disaster, or cut short a major or minor trial. Other times he leaves us in the disaster with only a promise that it will be better in the end, and a surprising calmness that as bad as this gets, the promises are still precious. Why make promises when he could just deliver us?

What then is prayer? Going to him with all the messiness of our lives, acknowledging that the messiness is greater than our ability to distract ourselves or keep going in our own willpower, to celebrate the certainty of the promises while embracing the uncertainty of how those promises will be implemented in our here and now. And thankfulness for the unique and unpredictable path he's led us on up to now. And worship, that his greatness and love and perfection can never be celebrated enough.

It's hopeless, so hope in God

Paradoxical encouragement from Jeremiah 30:

10 “‘So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant;
do not be dismayed, Israel,’
declares the LORD.
‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
and no one will make him afraid.
11 I am with you and will save you,’
declares the LORD.
12 “This is what the LORD says:
“‘Your wound is incurable,
your injury beyond healing.
13 There is no one to plead your cause,
no remedy for your sore,
no healing for you.
14 All your allies have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you.
17 But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’
declares the LORD,
‘because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares.’"

This seems paradoxical. If Jeremiah wants to encourage the people not to be afraid, why does he say that their wound is incurable? Or why does he say the wound is incurable, then say God will restore them to health and heal their wounds? Did Jeremiah forget what he was writing from one verse to the next?

But I conclude the negativity of verse 12 in the overall context of hope makes sense. I'm almost tempted to call it a hopeful hopelessness.

Your wounds are incurable. You really need God's grace. Not just a small touch of grace but the complete course; major surgery, complete replacement, a brand new life from the factory. You can stop pretending you've got it almost all together, you just need help on one or two little details.

Jeremiah goes on that "your allies" won't be there for you. The "if only" won't happen, or if it does it won't make the difference you think it will. But God will be there. The maker of something out of nothing, the power who brings life back out of death is on your case. That's what you really need, and that's what you've really got.

Why did Jesus die on Passover?

Jesus' death on the cross was the fulfillment of the Jewish sacrificial laws. He was the perfect lamb of God sacrificed to take away our sins.

That raised a question in my mind ome time ago. Why did Jesus die on Passover? Why didn't the crucifixion happen on the Day of Atonement?

Here's my thought: Passover is the day the old covenant began. So Jesus initiates the new covenant on Passover, because Passover is the day for covenants.

Psalm 22 revisited

Just over a year ago, I was quite impressed with Psalm 22. How great it is that Scripture shows us that we can present our raw emotions to God. Faith does not mean always wearing a happy face.

Then I looked at it again tonight and noticed something new. Here is how it begins:
For the director of music. To the tune of "The Doe of the Morning." A psalm of David.
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.

What caught my eye was the introduction, "For the director of music. To the tune of 'The Doe of the Morning.' " This is not just a spontaneous cry of pain from a moment David couldn't handle it anymore. This was a carefully rehearsed liturgical event. He picked out the tune the praise band would play as he poured out his heart to God. Maybe they needed to rehearse it several weeks before the performance.

How often in our worship do we express we have pain in our lives, but trust God is with us in it? Why do we think worship always has to be positive? It's pretty clear David wouldn't agree with that idea.

My earlier post on Psalm 22

God's love, the glory and the pain

God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.

That is the simple summary of the Gospel many of us have heard, Law 1 of the Four Spiritual Laws used for many years now by Campus Crusade.

Does this mean God just wants to bless us by giving us all we want? No.
The "wonderful plan" probably involves difficulties, hardships and trials. Why? Because the blessing God wants most to give us in his unfathomable love for us, is that we be like Christ. Giving us our selfish desires won't make us happy, it will make us bored, or whining for something else.

I was reminded of this principle by a couple of things lately. First, an excellent tweet by Paul David Tripp: "God will not forsake his sovereign plan of grace in order to deliver to you the pleasure and comfort-oriented life that you've dreamed of."

Second, I remembered the words of the song "Blessings" by Laura Story. She summarizes what we pray for, comfort, health, prosperity, then says "You love us far too much to be content with lesser things."

It can be painful to be loved by God, who accepts us right where we are but does not want to leave us there. The road to maturity, to the full glory of who he wants us to be often does lead through trials and sufferings, but let us believe that these are indeed the true blessings.